Early this week we rolled out Utah's best case scenario for 2015, which you can read HERE. If we're going to look at the best case scenario, it's only fair to dream up the worst case scenario for the upcoming season. Even with a talented and experienced team, things don't always go as you plan Injuries, in-fighting, bad luck, and inconsistency can turn a conference championship caliber team into one that struggles to make a bowl. Just ask every single Al Golden led Miami team. So what's the worst case scenario for Utah in 2015? Keep reading....if you dare.
The big Thursday night opener against Michigan gets things started with a national TV audience tuning in. Utah jumps out to an early 7-0 lead behind a Travis Wilson bomb to Kenneth Scott for a touchdown. Then, the season turns. Devontae Booker suffers a high ankle sprain on his first carry of the second quarter and the team looks devastated. Without their big weapon, the Michigan D tees off on Wilson, sacking him 6 times and picking off 3 passes as Utah falls to Harbaugh and company 24-10.
With Booker on the shelf for a month, Utah can't do anything offensively against Utah State. Short field after short field eventually has the defense bending before they eventually break late in the second half as the Aggies put up thee 4th quarter touchdowns. Gionni Paul's foot gives out in the 31-13 loss and he's out for at least two weeks. The Utes bounce back in week 3 against Fresno State with a close 28-20 victory behind Wilson, but the running game continues to be non-existent without Booker.
The bye week gives Utah a chance to heal, but Booker's rehab is behind schedule and he misses the Oregon game, as does Paul. Oregon scores touchdowns on their first 3 possessions, running away and hiding for a 49-14 victory. The Utes go to Kendal Thompson in the second half who leads Utah on their only scoring drives of the day. Chris Hill comes out and gives Kyle Whittingham the dreaded vote of confidence.
Thompson gets the start against Cal and the Utes are able to hold Jared Goff somewhat in check for a 31-27 win. Whittingham names Thompson the permanent starter going forward. Arizona State comes into Rice-Eccles stadium and it's 2012 all over again as the Sun Devils run the Utes out off the field in a commanding win. Thompson is injured midway through the game and Whittingham elects to insert Chase Hansen who goes 4-19 with 2 interceptions.
Wilson beats out Hansen leading up to the matchup with 5th ranked USC to grab the starting job again. Both Booker and Paul finally return from injury and the Utes give USC everything they can handle at the Coliseum. This is the Utah team we expected to see as we're tied heading into the 4th quarter until Tom Hackett attempts a fake punt near midfield and comes up short with under 7 minutes remaining. The Trojans methodically move down the field, converting four 3rd down conversions before Justin Davis plunges into the end zone with 90 seconds to go. Wilson has the opportunity to be a hero again against the Men of Troy, but his first pass is picked off and turns into a #pick6 as USC puts the nail in the coffin. Utah drops to 2-5.
The Halloween matchup with newly-hated Oregon State is next and Utah jumps out early, grabbing a 14-0 lead after the first quarter against a surprising Beavers squad. Whittingham takes his foot off of the pedal and plays it conservatively, handing the ball to Booker repeatedly. New Oregon State DC Kalani Sitake knows exactly what's coming, consistently loading the box with 9 players. Six straight Utah three and outs lets the Beavers get back into the game at the half, trailing by only a touchdown. The first play of the second half is a screen to Booker, who pulls up lame and drops the football. It's picked up by an OSU defender and returned for a touchdown to tie it. Utah is never the same, falling apart on both sides of the ball as Andersen out-maneuvers Whittingham thoroughly in a 31-20 Beavers win.
The Utes head to Washington to take on a Husky team that also has six losses, making this an elimination game. Both teams struggle offensively, but the Utah defense forces 3 turnovers that all turn into points in a 20-10 victory.
A road trip to #25 Arizona looks like the likely end to Utah's bowl hopes as the Wildcats get out to a 10-0 lead. Whittingham goes back to Chase Hanse in the 2nd quarter and the freshman runs for 180 yards while throwing for 110 in the upset as Utah's D again wins the day, holding Arizona to under 350 yards on the day. The dream of going bowling is still alive.
#7 ranked UCLA rolls into town looking to move up in the college football playoff standings. Utah does what they naturally do and knock off the Bruins behind a healthy defense that puts up a wail of a performance in the 17-13 victory, moving Utah to within one game of bowl eligibility with lowly Colorado on deck.Then 2011 happens again and the Buffs pull the shocker in Rice-Eccles as the Utes play their sloppiest game of the year, knocking them from bowl eligibility.
Hill fires Whittingham two days later citing a lack of progress and too much inconsistency within the program. Lowell Lotulelei, Hunter Dimick, Reggie Porter, and Dominique Hatfield declare for the NFL draft decimating the defense. Hill offers Gary Andersen the head coaching job. He declines, wanting to build off of Oregon State's 8-5 season. Kalani Sitake is offered the job. He declines, choosing to take the BYU head job instead after Bronco Mendenhall jumps to the NFL following the Cougars' 12-1 season. On Christmas Eve, Gary Crowton is named the new coach of the Utah football team. The 2016 recruiting class finishes ranked 11th in the Pac 12 with the Utes failing to land any four or five star players. Taysom Hill is selected by the New England Patriots, who trade up to get him, with the #1 pick in the NFL draft. Larry Scott invites BYU, Boise State, Utah State, and Fresno State to the Pac 12. Blue 'Entering Pac 12 Country' signs start popping up all over the state. James Cella is spotted sleeping in Pioneer Park in January draped in his tattered Sugar Bowl Champions snuggie while muttering '3 man rush' repeatedly under his breath.
Early Worst Case Scenario For 2015
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